70 Years Ago Today – The Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau


70 years ago today Obama’s grandfather and the Red Army liberated the most notorious of the death camps run by Nazi Germany. Here is the story of one survivor, Elie Wiesel:

At the beginning of Night, Wiesel introduces someone he met toward the end of 1941. His name was Moshe, and he became one of the boy’s teachers. They discussed religious topics, and one day they talked about prayer. Wiesel asked Moshe why he prayed, and his teacher replied that he prayed for strength to ask God the right questions. Later, the Hungarian police deported Moshe from Sighet, Wiesel’s hometown, because he was a foreigner. His destination was Poland and death at the hands of the Germans, but somehow Moshe escaped and found his way back to Sighet. The Jews of Sighet did not believe his tale of destruction.

Although the Holocaust was raging all around them, the Hungarian Jews were not decimated until 1944. Their lives began to change drastically, however, once the Germans occupied Hungary that March. In a matter of days, Sighet’s Jews had to deal with quarantines, expropriations of their property, and the yellow stars that targeted them. Then they were ghettoized and deported. Jammed into train cars, destination unknown, the Jews of Sighet—Elie Wiesel, his little sister, Tzipora, and their parents among them—eventually crossed the Polish frontier and arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Emerging from their train-car prisons into midnight air fouled by burning flesh, the Jews of Sighet were separated by the secret police: men to the left, women to the right. Wiesel lost sight of his mother and little sister, not fully aware that the parting was forever. Father and son stuck together. Spared the fate of Wiesel’s mother and sister, they were not “selected” for the gas chambers but for slave labor instead. From late May, 1944, until mid-January, 1945, Wiesel and his father endured Auschwitz’s brutal regimen. As the Red Army approached the camp, the two were evacuated to Germany. Severely weakened by the death march to Buchenwald, Wiesel’s father perished there, but the son was liberated on April 11, 1945.

It is hard for most people to truly grasp the enormity of the evil that was the Holocaust. The Nazis built Auschwitz because simply shooting all the Jews was too expensive and inefficient. They set up the camp to efficiently process the prisoners. Jews were separated from their property, used as slave labor until they were too sick from illness and starvation to work, then executed. They used gas because it was cheaper than bullets and built ovens to cremate the corpses. Throughout the process they kept meticulous records, causing Hannah Arendt to coin the phrase, “the banality of evil.”

By the time Germany occupied Hungary in March of 1944 they were already in retreat from their disastrous invasion of Russia, they had been pushed out of North Africa and the Allies were advancing north in Italy. American and British bombers were bombing German cities on a nightly basis. It was clear they were losing the war.

And yet when they took control of Hungary they immediately set about rounding up all the Hungarian Jews and sending them to death camps.

If The Caliphate or Iran get the chance they will try to finish the job that Hitler started. Meanwhile there is a movement in our own country that would destroy Israel.

About Myiq2xu - BA, JD, FJB

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
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44 Responses to 70 Years Ago Today – The Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

  1. Myiq2xu says:

    If you haven’t read Night you should. It’s a short paperback and you can find it in any library or used book store. I read it in one evening.

    It is one of the most chilling books I ever read.

    • votermom says:

      I only read it a couple of years ago iirc. I can’t forget how, in the beginning, someone fleeing fron the Nazis tried to warn the community and they just couldn’t believe him because it sounded so crazy.

    • mothy6767 says:

      My god yes. It is such an important piece of work. I had the chance to headlIne Weisel at the Jewish y. Love that place. Jewish Young Man’s Christian Association. As long as I live I will never forget the scene of him running from his father hoping in his heart he would die to lessen his burden. Harrowing comes close but misses.
      I have read all of his works but Night stands alone. The Oath is fiction and in 1992 it saved a young suicidal man’s life. Work of fiction but in it a life is saved because a man is kept talking. I was reading it when a young man publicly threatened to see his maker. Book deals with a pogram. Man has to be heard to stay alive. All I could think was keep him talking. He lived was not me was all Elie Weisel. I am such an idiot when I met Mr. Weisel I on instinct made the sign of the cross. He laughed. I was in awe and it just happened. Totally meant as a sign of ultimate respect I think I even sort of genuflected. Meet a Jew that went through Buchenwald and use Catholic stuff.
      Night and Fog is also well worth a watch. Doc done in 1955 that uses still images from when the camps were liberated. I don’t think I was capable of speech for hours after I watched it. Primo Levi also told his story(Survival in Aushwitz). Jersey Kosinski also wrote The Painted Bird which was supposed to be auto biography but it was made up. Still tells a story about a young boy on his own during the holocaust. The book is moving he also wrote Being There which became a hit film for Shirley McLaine and Peter Sellers. I read it in college before he killed himself. The fact he garnished his experience did not make it any less real for me. I was big on the Jews back then I think it came right before my black lesbian phase. I was crushed to find out Delmore Schwartz was born and raised in Brooklyn. No No No. He was a Jew in a concentration camp. He penned my favorite line ever—! In dreams begin responsibilities.

    • leslie says:

      I believe Night was the first book selected for the “One Book, One Chicago” program. Richard Daley was the mayor at that time.

  2. DeniseVB says:

    On a recent trip to DC, my husband visited the Holocaust Museum, I didn’t go with him. Anne Frank was required reading in my h.s. in the 60’s, she still has part of my heart. Wonder if the kids today are required to read her ?

    http://www.ushmm.org/ <—-Oh yeah, the website, not for the sensitive either.

    • elliesmom says:

      Because of a curriculum that’s a mile wide and an inch deep, kids don’t read many books in their entirety these days, but excerpts from her diary are pretty standard in 8th grade.

  3. 49erDweet says:

    I remember when this hit the news. The photos were brutal. And they kept coming for days and weeks. M
    Discovery of the camp(s) was the main reason why objections to the Dresden bombings didn’t resonate, btw. In spite of the huge number of historical revisionists, the German people at the time were pretty much OK with what their fuehrer was doing.

    • 49erDweet says:

      That photo of a portion of the wedding rings recovered from the gas chamber/ovens is mindbogglingly haunting. Such evil!

    • Myiq2xu says:

      Lots of Germans found it convenient after the war to plead ignorance. I think they were genuinely horrified and ashamed of themselves.

      • 49erDweet says:

        I think they are now, but I have two solid reasons for believing otherwise. My teachers at the time were first generation German-Americans with close ties to der fatherland. They initially had similar views of Jewry. Only later, as the war progressed, did they soften. In the end they were thoroughly ashamed. I believe homebased Germans were the same. Horrified, once they learned how far their hate had driven them. Even guilty.
        Also, during the Korean kerflunkle I was in (ahem) Intelligence and had access to after action reports of “several” (a classified term that means I have to shoot you if I tell you the real #) double agents who lived in Germany during WWII. Every one of them commented on this issue. Simply put, the Deniers are wrong. Until mid 1944, Hitler had most Germans’ approval.

        • Myiq2xu says:

          The Nazis put up a hell of a fight until the Spring of 1944. They weren’t just going thru the motions and waiting for a chance to surrender.

          The killings in the death camps continued right up until the end.

        • 1539days says:

          I think Hitler had tacit approval at best. My grandmother came to the US from Germany in the 50’s and the Germans were treated bad in America. They treat Muslims a lot better today, despite what the left would tell you.

          • 49erDweet says:

            Yep, I agree. There was a lot of residual anger Of the three Axis nations in WWII, the consensus at the time was only the Italians treated the enemy “fairly”. We had several dozen Italians among the inmates in a local POW camp and they were the only prisoners who could go outside on work details without riling the citizenry. My granddad was a reserve LAPD officer assigned to guard/protect them. He had stories.

          • Myiq2xu says:

            Once the Cold War started we de-emphasized all that Nazi war crime stuff. Lots of former SS soldiers were released from Spandau, and Nazi scientists were quietly brought to the US to work on our missle/space program.

    • Myiq2xu says:

      The Nazis gave racism a bad name. It was the WWII generation that ended segregation, not the Baby Boomers.

      • 49erDweet says:

        Something else WWII doesn’t get enough credit for is Women’s Rights. The majority of workers at defense plants for all three shifts were women. The air crews delivering new aircraft to the front were women. Almost 80% of the LA city work force were women. They pulled their weight and more, and opened lots of eyes. They would not allow things to slip back after the war and the returning vets supported them. That’s what started the movement, not the burning of a brassiere.

  4. SHV says:

    This is one of the “best” Holocaust videos that I have seen. “Return to Auschwitz”….it’s message seems to be effective, it is routinely trashed by deniers.

    • Myiq2xu says:

      I ran into a denier in a bookstore one night. He seemed like a nice old German guy and then he started spouting off that it was really the French who killed the Jews.

      It’s a chilling feeling when you suddenly realize you are talking to a madman.

  5. mothy6767 says:

    I first became aware of the holocaust at 9 when I watched a mini series with Meryl Streep I think the year was 1978. It floored me. To this day I remember what I was wearing and eating. I even remember wondering if my mother had any clue as to what I was seeing. She was gabbing away on on a pink princess phone that was tethered by a long curly cord. Back then 9 pm meant bedtime and no tv for kids. They had racy stuff like Three’s Company. So funny.

  6. Myiq2xu says:

    Remember the Ralph Fiennes character in Schindler’s List? This is the real Amon Goeth’s execution. The Soviets botched the first two tries.

  7. Myiq2xu says:

    BTW – 75% of all German casualties took place on the EASTERN front. We got the easy part of the war.

  8. mothy6767 says:

    Remember the song ” mad world” by tears for fears way back in 1984. Well I just tried to rent Night and Fog. I have Netflix. Huluplus , amazon prime vudu and m go. Not one has the film. I can only buy a DVD. I have not had a DVD player since Dore the Explorer. Movies get scratched and misplaced. I cannot be bothered. I buy digital.
    Reminds me I have a high end Toshiba DVD player never going to use. I tried to give it away on capitalist for free but it became a freak show. I used my cell phone. Mistake I got thousands of calls. Player cost me a lot 4 years ago but I being stupid also bought new Tvs player does not work without HDMI cables. I cannot be bothered. I only buy kids films and they are forever. I
    I have a very good DVD player I will ship anywhere.I have no need I spent a lot of money on it. I dread putting in the trash
    But I have tried giving it away. . I will ship anywhere.

    • 1539days says:

      I have yet to buy a DVD player. My family had one of those that went inside a TV. I used the DVD drive in the computer. Even now, the only DVD player I have is the computer I connected to the TV to stream movies and record cable.

      • lyn says:

        It is on Hulu Plus.

        • mothy6767 says:

          Holey Shit you are right. I was mistaken . Search gave me a Woody Allen film. I was a film student in college which really means nothing outside of making popcorn. Did see this movie. I have not the vocabulary to discuss this film. I am a better man because I saw it but it hurts.
          I thought it was not available on Hulu because a search for Night and Fog gives you a thousand episodes everything with night or fog. Your reference made me search a new yep it is there but you have to go to full episodes. Most brutal film I have ever seen yet I recommend it.

        • mothy6767 says:

          My god I just watched it again. I had to turn off the sound because I speak some French but I couldn’t keep up. The movie is the most painful thing I have ever seen. A real horror film. Women’s hair and the carpet. I can not fathom how some survived. Does not seem possible. I am very very sad after watching that. I have nothing to say I just want to cry but I feel so numb. My brain screams not possible but my heart is collapsing.

  9. SHV says:

    “Imagine if we took every resident of NYC and shipped them to Indiana for execution. Think of the logistics and necessary bureaucracy.”
    The death camps, Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzek used “just in time” processing. The transport trains would arrive and the Jews that were still alive were marched from the boxcars to the gas chambers; no barracks, just perfect timing and logistical coordination. I always wondered how the German’s could be so efficient with the logistics. After I read the book, “IBM and the Holocaust”, I learned that it was all done with IBM punch cards, card punch machines, card sorters, etc. The Germans were always punctual in paying the rental fees on the IBM machines.

  10. Myiq2xu says:

    Before Taylor or Carrie or Faith, Shania broke the mold for women in C&W:

  11. mothy6767 says:

    I have tremendous respect for this site and all of the contributors. I walked down some streets tonight I thought I had left behind. Elite Wiesel is the closest thing I will ever come to having a hero. He suffered so much but went on to color the world with his gifts. I have had the fortune to meet my real hero. Who gets to do that. I am well aware that I am an as she. Please I annoy me. Had I not read Night or met Weisel maybe I would not have forgiven me enough to play a bit part in a throw away child’s life. Mamma Cass says it best

  12. swanspirit says:

    Thank you for this post.

  13. mothy6767 says:

    I like Taylor Swift. Not a huge fan of her music but I like smarty pants that an sing. Please I am 48 and gay and fan of dolly. Taylor Swift Is her.their. 1970s was her hair was like summer rain Jolene 2000 thousand is shake it.off. both songs are about female empowerment. Way back when dolly said step down to another woman she said your beauty is beyond compare. Jolene is a great song. The White Stripes tried yt? O cover e r it but it was empty. Yelling Jolene,f
    Little brat played back to December.

    • Myiq2xu says:

      AFAIAC, good music, like all good art, touches people. Not necessarily all people, nor all people the same way. Two people can listen to the same song (or look at the same painting) and hear/see different things.

      Technical proficiency is not required to make good art. I could draw better than Pablo Picasso but he’s a great artist and I’m not.

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